True to form, Cost Plus (NASDAQ:CPWM) turned in disappointing numbers last week, and Wall Street was, well, disappointed. How disappointed? About 7% disappointed initially, and 12% as of this writing.

Revenues increased precisely as much as the company had already announced: 7%, to $367 million, in the fourth quarter. Profits missed the mark by a penny -- Cost Plus had guided investors to expect $0.98 per share. In fact, the number was $0.97. Same-store sales declined 2.1%.

Disappointing as these Q4 numbers were, however, each of them reflects an improvement over the company's results for the year -- suggesting that Cost Plus may be leading the pack of treasure-hunt home furnishers out of their industry-wide slump. For 2005 as a whole, Cost Plus' sales also increased 7%, but profits declined 32%, to $0.92 per diluted share in total. And same-store sales? Those declined 2.6%. Relative to its performance for the year, therefore, there were big improvements in Q4 on all fronts.

The fact that inventories finally began to fall (albeit just 0.1%, year over year) at Cost Plus is also encouraging. In recent quarters, inventories had been rising at roughly three times the rate of sales gains. Even a slowing of that trend would have been welcome news last week. Yet Cost Plus appears to have stopped the rising tide of unwanted and unmovable goods in its tracks.

Now contrast these results with, for example, the numbers that Restoration Hardware (NASDAQ:RSTO) and Pier 1 (NYSE:PIR) have been posting recently. In January, Restoration reported a 7.4% decline in comps during the Christmas shopping season. Pier 1 reported a 3.2% decline in comps for its fourth quarter, versus a 7.2% decline for full-year 2005. At the time, that seemed to suggest that Pier 1 was following Cost Plus up and out of the sales slump. Unfortunately, Pier 1 soon thereafter reported a 10.8% drop in February comps. Combined with Restoration's anemic Christmas quarter, it seems a wider recovery among these stores is still a ways off.

Best of the best
Meanwhile, more traditional home furnishing retailers are doing just fine, thank you very much. Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ:BBBY), for example, doesn't report again until April. But at last report, it grew comparable-store sales by a healthy 3.1% in Q3 2005. Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WSM) just released its own numbers, and it did well, too, growing comps by 5.8%.

Bed Bath & Beyond is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Witha 30-day free trial, you can see what else David andTom Gardner have recommended to subscribers.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above.